Thursday, June 19, 2008

What I've Learned Since I Got "The Call"

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
~John Lennon

In my case, life is what happens when I’m trying to meet my deadline. Yesterday, while I was chatting on an author interview, I was asked how life changes after you get ‘The Call.’ It sounded like a good idea for a blog, and since I’d been wracking my brain trying to come up with just that, I made a note of it and enjoyed the rest of the chat.

I awoke this morning, made my 15-foot commute to my office, and sipped my coffee as I sat on the exercise ball I use in lieu of a desk chair, quietly thinking. Okay, all of us who have children home on summer vacation and animals know that quiet is relative. So I hid in my office while I bounced on my ball and thought about how life had changed in the year since I sold Romeo, Romeo. While I was trying to think quietly in between no less than five interruptions, I realized that my best-laid plans for meeting my deadline were blown to smithereens because life happens.

I’ve discovered that every one of life’s trials and tribulations gives me, a newly published author, the opportunity for an invaluable learning experience and perhaps ideas for a new scene or book. For instance, my dogs decided to take a jaunt to our local Wal-Mart and got a one-way ticket to the pound. The hour drive to the pound to spring the dogs from ‘The Pen,’ gave me the uninterrupted time on my cell phone –which, as you can imagine, is at a premium. I was able to discuss the copyedits for Romeo, Romeo with my editor who, unlike me, got a kick out of Sambuca and Jasmine’s shopping spree and subsequent incarceration.
My dogs’ escape taught me that you can get work done just about anywhere and everyone really does shop at Wal-Mart.

At the same time, my sister, whom I love and adore, returned for a two-week stay to recover from her second total knee replacement—barely a month after the weeks she spent with us while recuperating from her first. In the midst of all this, I’m driving my budding ballerina of a daughter to her dance school, a three-hour roundtrip four times a week.

I don’t have a private duty nurse, a chauffeur, a ghostwriter, a shrink on speed dial, or the magical ability necessary to add another eight hours to each day so I’ve learned to cope.

Now, my MacBook Air and I have become fixtures in both my daughter’s dance school and the nearby café. I learned that earplugs do more than allow you to sleep through the snores of your significant other. They are priceless when one finds it necessary to write in the midst of a gaggle of badly behaved children wearing tights, or while Oprah is blaring in the background. Luckily, my daughter has warned the aforementioned badly behaved tight-wearers that I growl if interrupted while writing, and the owner of the café knows that I drink coffee by the gallon. He’s learned from experience that if he has something to say he needs to wave, because when he taps me on the shoulder, I’ll startle and spill my coffee—more likely than not all over him.
Despite my delusional tendencies, I really thought I had a handle on successfully mixing my life and my work. Then I received an email requesting a one-week turn around on copy proofs for Romeo, Romeo that are slated to arrive ten days before If You Can’t Stand The Heat… is due on my editors desk.

Still, even with all the pressure, and the threat to my sanity or perhaps the loss of my sanity, I love what I do and I can’t imagine doing anything else. Although I’d like to try doing it sailing on a 100-foot yacht in the South Pacific.

Told you I was delusional!


  1. Thanks, Robin! Great post! Nice to know that life goes on after the call. (Or is it all that nice? It sounds like the rest of the family goes merrily on their way while you're going crazy, navigating a whole new course for your life.) I don't know how much writing I'd be able to do on a Caribbean cruise but at the least, I'd be plotting while enjoying the horizon.

    For your next blog, how about telling us how your own Domestic God made all these changes in your life that much more bearable? When I sit down at the computer (my "office" is the laptop on the kitchen table), my DG just rolls his eyes and turns the sound down on the baseball game. :) You're SO right about earplugs. He got me the Bose stereo earplugs and they really do reduce noise. He sometimes stops by and points at the boys' room and asks, "Can't you hear that?"

    "Uh, no, honey." And I just put the earplugs back in and smile.

  2. Every time I am reminded that women with small children write romances, I'm simply staggered. You must have incredible powers of concentration and self discipline.

    Thanks for the window on your world.

  3. Robin, we're all goddesses who can multitask better than any man on the planet.

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  5. As the sister with two new knees, I can testify that not only is everything in this blog true, she also did not exaggerate and in fact left out lots of stuff she does, such as preparing a sit-down, home-cooked fmaily dinner every single night, chauffering two other children to their activities, mantaining many close friendships, and of course spending time with her own DG. Before anyone hates her for her perfection, Robin would be the first to say that all this is possible because the entire family has approached her writing career as their common goal. It's been an amazing experience to observe this up close this summer. Love you, sis.

  6. You startle and spill because you're bouncing on that ball :) Oh, Robin, thanks for the laugh. It's a empathetic laugh I promise you. Nice blog.

  7. Loved your quips about the dogs and how they proved everyone DOES shop at Wal-Mart. Too funny!

    I agree that navigating through life while building a career is intense. Over the past month I survived my daughter's Senior Prom, HS Graduation ceremony and party, and Senior Week. Between all the shopping and preparations for those milestone events, I signed a new book contract and began a new novel. Edits start next week.

    Shall we sign up for a relaxing cruise, Robin? Maybe what we need is some get-away girl time!

    Best--Adele Dubois

  8. Robin,

    Your are so right. The worst interruptions occur when you need them the least.

    Either my pound puppy need walking, desperately Or Dh discovers an urgent need to tell me what happened yesterday, while I hop from foot to foot, trying to get to my cave. Or the accountant calls with an urgent question about dh's business.

    But Stephanie had it right when she said women know how to multi-task. I did it when I worked and I am still doing it. But I must say once in a while an interruption can work wonders for my muse.

    Great post. Very thought provoking.

  9. Hi Robin! I enjoyed reading about the creative chaos in your life. That's the important thing after all, to realize that life moves on after The Call, and that you have to splice the publishing world into an already tight schedule. Sounds like you are making it all work.

    IN FOR A PENNY, out now!

  10. Great post, Robin! But I think Carla said it best:
    "Or is it all that nice? It sounds like the rest of the family goes merrily on their way while you're going crazy, navigating a whole new course for your life."
    My family hasn't changed a bit since I began writing--I'm STILL the one who has to do everything unless I want to nag someone else to do it!
    I wanted to become a writer because I was sure it would be less stressful than being a critical care nurse. WRONG!!!! The patients can be left at the hospital, but the writing follows you wherever you go--including your vacation!
    It's getting to the point that the only time I get to relax is when I'm at the hospital and my patients are asleep!

  11. Robin,
    You are so right about the chaos of life. Love that your dogs escaped to Walmart. My little Consuela (dog not kid) once got caught INSIDE K-Mart when my dad was supposed to be watching her. I gave him a blue light special kick in the ass and a thorough lecture that granddogs are as important as grandkids. He's grown up to be a damned fine babysitter in his old age.

    The summer vacation hot ball of stress has settled into my life, too. I work full-time from home and my company has an annual meeting similar to RWA's (2000 of them 20 of us...) Usually it is held the last week of June so the worst is over before the kids get out of school. This year it's the last week in JULY and I am responsible for the 110-page program and everything else that gets printed. Oh and did I mention that one of the three women who works for me is on maternity leave? Holy mother of God, I say! I am on day 2 of summer vacation and wishing I had a sedative handy!!

    Insert hysterical laughter here. Good luck to all the moms!!

  12. Love this and your sister's post above made me all misty. ;)

    I think this is all life's correction for making sure we don't get too wrapped up in our work, too isolated, and ultimately, we're better writers for it.

    Congrats and much continued success! (And Robin's sis, hope you're on the mend!)


  13. I don’t have a private duty nurse, a chauffeur, a ghostwriter, a shrink on speed dial, or the magical ability necessary to add another eight hours to each day so I’ve learned to cope.
    Yup, I'd say those are the essentials every writer needs, but most will never have! LOL!

    Great post, Robin, and it just points up the shocking thing I learned after getting "The Call" almost a year ago... I didn't stop worrying (like I thought I would) I just got a whole new set of things to worry about!

    But I wouldn't trade it either,

  14. Hi everyone~

    I would have responded sooner but I had to take my sister to the hospital to make sure she didn't have a blood clot. Thank God there's no clot and she insisted on going home which worries me, but since she's older than me, I didn't think I could refuse to take her.

    Carla, to answer your question, my Domestic god came home from work when he heard Nadine had to go for the Doppler and took all three kids to the dentist. He is doing laundry and packing two of the three up for camp.

    Donnell~ I have spilled coffee due to my bouncing. It's great for the back but it gets tricky when my desk is a mess and I have to look something up. I end up crossing one leg to rest the huge dictionary on and invariably forget that I shouldn't be bouncing. I've almost broken my neck a few times. You'd think I'd clean off my desk. LOL

    Adele~I don't know about a cruise, but a vacation with the girls sounds like a great idea. I haven't had a vacation since my DG whisked me away to Paris when a conference was canceled due to a hurricane. I think if I had another child, I'd name him Ivan! That was about five years ago, unfortunately our vacation fund went to pay for the ballerina's five-week dance camp.

    Cheryl~ The family does go merrily on their way, but I did get a MacBook Air out of the deal. I love the computer, but now everyone thinks that's all I need to get the job done. A few weeks of peace and quiet would help too.

    And Cindy~ You're so right about worrying more, but then when I'm feeling stressed, I tell myself that there are thousands of people who would gladly change places with me.

    I feel lucky--I'm just not sure if it's in a Mary Chapin Carpenter way or a Dirty Harry way.

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by.

    Oh, and sis, I love you too and miss you already.

  15. Thanks, Robin, for another interesting and insightful post. So good to know that these problems are universal, to anyone who tries to juggle three or four lives at once, and that we all usually manage to triumph in the end.